[caption id="attachment_83239" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2021\/09\/DSC_0301.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="443" class="size-full wp-image-83239" \/> Rita and Tony Kelly had thought about keeping bees for years before they finally took the plunge. Now, Tony builds his own beehives, like this beauty which features a horizontal viewing window for inspecting the hive. \u201cYou don\u2019t have to disturb the bees as much with this design,\u201d Tony said. \u201cIt\u2019s fun to open up the side and watch them at work, and the bees seem to like it, too.\u201d L.D. Bennett photo[\/caption]\r\n\r\nLaura Dean Bennett\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nThe bee is domesticated, but not tamed. \r\n~ William Longgood\r\n\r\nTony and Rita Kelly said they\u2019d been thinking about beekeeping for several years. They finally jumped into it about five years ago, after they\u2019d retired and had more time.\r\n\r\nAnd both report that it\u2019s a great hobby.\r\n\r\nTony retired from Watoga State Park where he was maintenance supervisor for many years, and Rita retired from a 30-year career as a pre-school teacher at Green Bank.\r\n\r\nThey are in the keeping business in several ways. They keep family close, and they keep bees, chickens and a boxer mix named Cinnamon. \r\n\r\nTheir grandkids include a 15 year old, a four year old and 20 month old.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s wonderful that they can spend a lot of time here,\u201d Rita said, smiling. \u201cThey\u2019re learning a lot about the bees.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe four year old has gotten suited up a few times, and the fifteen year old also helps.\u201d \r\n\r\nThe couple lives in Minnehaha Springs, right on the spot where Tony was raised.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy dad was really scared of bees,\u201d Tony remembered. \u201cHe\u2019d fool around with a rattlesnake, but wouldn\u2019t get close to bees.\r\n\u201cI always thought it might be something I\u2019d like.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhen asked what their neighbors think of them keeping bees, the Kellys said their neighbors are family.\r\n\r\nTheir daughter and her family live on one side of them, and their son and his family live on the other side.\r\n\r\nIt makes it convenient for babysitting grandchildren and for lots of visits back and forth.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis is a good place to raise a family,\u201d Tony said.\r\n\r\nHe knows all about family, but when it comes to bees, Tony said, \u201cWe\u2019re relatively new to it, but we\u2019re really enjoying it. \r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a lot of hard work, but you\u2019re always learning something, and the bees are entertaining and fascinating.\u201d\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re also good pollinators for the Kelly\u2019s garden and their apple trees.\r\n\r\n\u201cBees aren\u2019t aggressive,\u201d he added. \u201cThey\u2019re usually docile unless you disturb them too much.\u201d \r\n\r\nThe Kellys have Langstroth type beehives \u2013 eight of them and another one ready to go \u2013 and they check on them daily.\r\n\r\nCinnamon used to go down to the hives with them.\r\n\r\n\u201cShe\u2019s gotten stung a few times and now she doesn\u2019t want anything to do with those bees,\u201d Rita laughed.\r\n\r\nThe Kelly\u2019s home and property is a show place. \r\n\r\n\u201cTony can build anything,\u201d Rita said proudly. \u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cHe\u2019s always building something. When we got married, Tony built this house, and we\u2019ve always lived here.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen we started out with the bees, Tony bought some hives, but now he builds them himself,\u201d Rita added.\r\n\r\nTony designed a special horizontal hive and this is the second year it\u2019s been in use. \r\n\r\n\u201cYou don\u2019t have to disturb the bees as much with this design,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\n\u201cAnd it\u2019s fun to be able to just open up the side and watch them at work. It\u2019s also makes it easier to increase the size of the hive.\r\n\r\nLocation of a hive is important, too. It should face east and southeast so they\u2019ll get out early in the morning and produce more honey, and south so it can get the most sun during the day. \r\n\r\nEach hive is home to about 30,000 to 60,000 bees, and they are extremely skilled in taking care of themselves and their hive.\r\n\r\nThey gather tree sap and use that to make propolis \u2013 a sticky gum substance which they use to seal up the hive of any cracks they find in it, and if, say, a mouse gets in, they will sting it to death and encase the body in propolis so it can\u2019t contaminate the hive.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey\u2019re smart,\u201d Tony said. \u201cAnd they\u2019re organized.\u201d\r\n\r\nEverything is done in the beehive to maximize chances of the hive\u2019s survival. \u00a0And the bees are sometimes cruel in achieving that goal.\r\n\r\nEvery bee is born with a specific job to do. \r\n\r\nAll young females are first assigned to work in the nursery tending the larvae. \r\n\r\nThen they move on to their natural job assignments.\r\n\r\n\u201cIf the queen is sick or not laying eggs, her attendants will kill her,\u201d Tony said.\r\n\r\nWhen they need a new queen, they\u2019ll make a few other eggs to serve as potential queens. \u00a0\r\n\r\nBy feeding royal jelly to the first one who emerges they make her their next queen, then she promptly goes to the other cells containing potential queens and kills them.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe females don\u2019t live long,\u201d Tony said. \u201cThey work themselves to death.\u201d\r\n\r\nThey live only 40 days in summer, three months in winter.\r\n\r\nThey fly from blossom to blossom gathering nectar on their legs to bring it back to the hive and turn into honey.\r\n\r\nThe males, called drones, can\u2019t sting. \r\n\r\nThey just mate with the queen in a mating flight. \r\n\r\nAs soon as the drones mate, they die. Then the queen stays in the hive for the rest of her life and lays up to 1,000 to 1,500 eggs a day.\r\n\r\nThere are several breeds of bees, some known to have better temperaments than others.\r\n\r\n\u201cRussian\u201d queens make a very hardy hive, less susceptible to disease and varona mites, but the Russian bees are very mean,\u201d Tony said.\r\n\r\nThen there are Buckfast, Italian, Carniolans, Causca-sian, Cordovan and African bees. \r\n\r\nMost people who are starting out, order a package of bees by January, then when the kit arrives, they take out the queen, who costs $35, and the sugar water, and dump the bees into the hive.\r\n\r\nBeekeepers usually buy bees and queens and have them shipped to them.\r\n\r\nYes, you can get bees by mail.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou can order them and pick them up at S&T Bees in Elkins,\u201d Tony said. \r\n\r\n\u201cThey have a lot of knowledge, and they\u2019re happy to help you.\r\n\r\n\u201cSouthern States has a large selection of bee keeping supplies,\u201d Tony added.\r\n\r\nThere are people who raise queens in our area, but it\u2019s hard to do, and putting a new queen from outside the hive can be tricky.\r\n\r\nThe bees need to be coaxed into accepting a strange queen, and if they are already in the process of making their own queen, they\u2019ll kill a new queen introduced from outside.\r\n\r\nQueen bees live longer than any of the other bees in her hive. A queen\u2019s life expectancy is between three and five years.\r\n\r\nThe honey that bees produce is an extremely healthy food, and it will not go bad. \r\n\r\n\u201cIt will keep for years and years,\u201d Rita reported. \u201cIt will eventually crystallize, but you can rejuvenate it by putting the jar in warm water.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWe don\u2019t make a lot of honey,\u201d Tony said. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot of work to it and we\u2019re really not big enough to make any money at it, so we just make a few jars every once in a while and give them to family and friends.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo get the honey, you shake the bees from a frame that has been removed from the hive.\r\n\r\nThen spin the frame in a machine that spins out the honey.\r\n\r\nSet the frames in the yard and the bees will find them, eat the honey and in that way, finish cleaning them up.\r\nThe honeycomb is melted down for candles.\r\n\r\nWhen a hive has all the bees in it that it can hold, the queen and a large number of the bees leave the hive in search of another home.\r\n\r\nThis is called swarming. \r\n\r\n\u201cSometimes, if you can follow a swarm, and they land on something that you can get to \u2013a shrub or a tree that you can climb up to \u2013 you can capture a swarm and bring it back to a new hive and this way, increase your number of bees,\u201d Tony explained.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe learn something every time we inspect the hives. You have to look for little signs of change in each hive and keep on top of the health of the hive and whether the queen\u2019s laying eggs,\u201d Rita said.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s important to keep records,\u201d she added.\r\n\r\nDressed in protective beekeeper jackets and hoods, Tony and Rita carefully open each hive.\r\n\r\nThey search for eggs which were recently laid, look for any signs that a beetle or other intruder has broken in and look for the queen in each hive.\r\n\r\nDo they ever get stung?\r\n\r\nThe answer is yes, but not too often.\r\n\r\nWhen bees sting, they release a pheromone which alerts all the other bees to a danger and then the whole hive can be after you. \r\n\r\nTony said never swat at a bee. You\u2019ll just make it mad.\r\n\r\nAnd if you do get stung, don\u2019t touch the stinger. \r\n\r\nThe bee leaves its stinger inside you, which continues to pulse out its toxin for a bit after the sting. Tony advises using a dull knife edge to slide the stinger out rather that rub at it.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe use this little smoker to calm the bees,\u201d Rita said.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe smoke messes with their pheromones. When they get stirred up, they send off pheromones, and it makes the whole hive disturbed.\u201d\r\n\r\nSandy Simmons is the president of Pocahontas County Beekeepers Association, which has about 15 active members.\r\n\r\n\u201cShe\u2019s very experienced,\u201d Tony said. \u201cWe meet the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Wellness Center. \r\n\r\n\u201cOnce a year we take a field trip to someone\u2019s apiary and have the meeting there. Last month the club met here.\u201d\r\n\r\nSimmons encourages anyone who\u2019s interested in keeping bees to get involved with the organization.\r\n\r\n\u201cBees are fascinating,\u201d she said. \u201cThey\u2019re valuable to the ecosystem and essential to our food chain. \r\n\r\n\u201cThey can be a lot of work \u2013 hot work in the heat of the day, which is when we work our bees. And in the summer, with the protective clothing on, it can really get hot.\r\n\r\n\u201cBut the people who keep bees all seem to thoroughly enjoy them.\r\n\r\n\u201cOur meetings are educational. It\u2019s a good place to learn about beekeeping,\u201d she added.\r\n\r\nBeekeepers tend to be nice, responsible people who will help you.\r\n\r\n\u201cOf course, if you ask ten different beekeepers a question, you\u2019ll get ten different answers,\u201d Rita laughed.